Thirteen years ago, champagne popped in South Florida and some ballplayers in The Mile High City put their helmets back on.
It was all thanks to the Giants.
During his team's run at a perfect season in 1998, Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan treated his reigning Super Bowl champions to Fridays without helmets. His players, instead, sported less cumbersome hats during the last practice of the week as a reward (in addition to Mondays off after a win).
The Broncos had a dozen of these "hat days" leading up to the Dec. 13 meeting with a lowly 5-8 Giants squad. Denver was 13-0 and walked into Giants Stadium for the 1 p.m. kickoff hoping to become the only other undefeated team since the 1972 Dolphins.
"That morning just had a strange feel to it," Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe recalled in this NFL Network segment of *America’s Game*. "Something just…it just…I'm like …"
The Hall of Famer could only shake his head.
With low winds on a 44-degree day, Jason Elam and Brad Daluiso traded field goals before Tiki Barber scored on a 21-yard pass from quarterback Kent Graham, taking a 10-6 lead to the locker room. Graham, a journeyman in his second stint in New York, replaced Danny Kanell three weeks earlier after the Giants began the season 3-7. Graham won two of his three starts heading into the Broncos game.
The two teams exchanged field goals again coming out of the break, and Super Bowl XXXII MVP Terrell Davis' 27-yard rushing touchdown eventually gave the Broncos a 16-13 fourth-quarter lead. Graham was given an 86-yard task to complete the upset, and with 48 seconds remaining, he hit Amani Toomer in the back right corner of the end zone for a 37-yard score.
The Giants won, 20-16, ending the Broncos' streak and putting smiles on the ex-Dolphins' faces.
"Reality sets in that this run is over," Davis, finding consolation in his eventual Super Bowl victory a few weeks later, said in the same video. "First thing you think about is, man, we have to wear helmets. We have to put on helmets on Friday. That's hat day."
The current Giants, unlike their 1998 counterparts, will still have the postseason dream very much alive when they walk into MetLife Stadium on Sunday under similar circumstances. Dating back to last season, the Packers have won 17 straight; the Broncos had won 18 in a row stretching back to their own Super Bowl run in 1997.
While no Giants players were around 13 years ago, Super Bowl XLII is still fresh in everyone's mind.
But Tom Coughlin quickly put to bed that storyline earlier in the week when asked if the Packers' challenge is similar to beating the 18-0 Patriots.
"No, only the fact that it is an undefeated team," Coughlin said on Wednesday. "It is a different circumstance when we played but it is the challenge of playing a team that is obviously a very good football team. That part is consistent." Join other diehard Giants Fans!
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